By Jon Miller | Post Date: July 9, 2008 7:03 AM | Comments: 5
One of the risks, or should we say unintended consequences of a successful lean implementation is that people become unhappy when “there are no more problems to solve”. This seemed like an odd statement when it was first heard spoken at a recent lean leadership session, so we dug deeper. It turns out that this concern is for those managers who are celebrated as successful fire-fighters. The heroes who solve emergent problems and get things done suddenly lose this element of job satisfaction when the process become stable and predictable as part of a lean transformation. What to do with these fire fighters so they don't turn into arsonists?
We had to explain to people the notion that “no problem is a problem”. This requires redefining for people the lean definition of a problem. A problem is any gap between the ideal and the current condition. Taken to an extreme, by that measure we are nothing but walking problems. Or we could say that if we don't see problems we have set expectations far too low. In either case, for any business there are many practical and long-term strategic gaps and the lean worker should view these as problems. And when we have problems we do kaizen.
At which point another interesting objection was raised: Isn't this just calling the daily work of management "kaizen"? Don't we already by definition do or try to do these things? How is kaizen any different from "improvement" or simply good management? Practically speaking and in terms of kaizen as it exists as part of the philosophy of the Toyota Production System, there are three major differences between kaizen and normal good management.
1. Kaizen requires that we identify and remove waste from our processes
2. In kaizen, the countermeasure results in a process change that is a new standard
3. Kaizen is constant, management is continuous
Kaizen and good management need each other. If we think of problems as positive things, or even an enlightened leaders' reason for being, then we no longer need to flit like the moth to the flame of the latest fiasco, but instead set a steady aim towards a clear big goal and begin to break it down for everyone to work on through kaizen.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.